Houseplants and pest management

StrangeOtter

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Houseplants are decorative and make humans happy just by existing. Personally, I have a huge passion for them. However, plants are part of nature and there is always a possibility that you get something more than what you paid for.

As for me, if I'd want to work in a houseplant store, I'd have to use a form of pest management. As a vegan and as someone who is interested in Buddhism, I find this extremely difficult.

Even when you buy a plant, you indirectly support killing of insects because the plants have been sprayed at least a couple of times before entering the shop. And the shop might also have to spray the plants or use predatory insects.

Integrated pest management is now commonly used in greenhouses and houseplant stores, where chemicals aren't the first option. Preventing and observing are the first things to do, after that comes biological ways to manage pests such as using predatory insects, for example Encarsia formosa, who lays their eggs inside Trialeurodes vaporariorum. When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings eat the bug from the inside out.
This can be used during the warmer months, but during winter the insects won't survive the trip. And there are some other problems as well. Firstly, the predatory insects never eat every single pest there is, and secondly, during the summer months when you open the windows, more pests will come. You can also unwittingly bring pests with you from outside, or your pets might also do that.

Soil might also have pests in it.
I have heard that some plants could be grown in water, but I'm sceptical about this, especially when Sansevieria was mentioned! I have always thought that Sansevieria likes to keep their roots dry. Here are some plants that allegedly forms water roots: Aglaonema, Basil, Spathiphyllum, Pothos, Scefflera, Monstera deliciosa, Sansevieria, Philodendron, Anthurium and Calathea.
But I really do not know how this even works. Maybe some of the roots are kept above the water surface, so that the plant won't drown?

Another way to minimize the possibility of pests is planting in a medium that is pest free. Some mix pumice with clay, for example. Or peat with perlite, or something like that. But using peat is really bad for the environment. And then there is LECA. Here is a link where you can read more about planting in LECA:

Or you could treat the potting mix in the oven, that would definitely kill all the pests in it. But again, with the killing. Is that ever a good thing?

Another way to minimize the risk of getting pests is to make sure that your plants are healthy and happy. When the plant has bad growing conditions, for example, it gets too much direct sun or is placed in a deep shade, or is given too much nitrogen, its immunity weakens. Happy and healthy plants rarely get problems with pests and never get fungi. But when the plant starts to become sick, nature takes it back.

How do you prevent pests taking over your plants? Do you think that it is ethical to kill insects to protect our precious household plants from harm?
 
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Tom L.

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It's a difficult scenario for me.

Having some plants in my house does me great spiritual good: I feel energized being around them. Back when I was in college, the Biology Department had a greenhouse outside the main building, and I used to love visiting there. Within a block from the building where I work, there's a houseplant store, and although I presently have no urge to buy anything, a very pleasant emotion comes over me very time I walk by.

This past summer, there were many large planters maintained by the city along the streets where I work. Late in the year, shortly before the first frost, I took a small piece of Zebrina pendula and rooted it in water at home (I assume the city discards the plants when they put the planters away for the winter). When the roots were strong enough, I potted it in growing medium from a large planter.

I have been known to capture small pests and release them outside when it's warm enough. I figure they came in from out there, so they can go back out there. But I haven't had many insects other than the fungus gnats. Decades ago, we had mealybugs; and once, a scale insect or two got on my staghorn fern (it died a year or two later from some other reason).
 
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Lou

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What you need is a pet that eats those little gnats. Maybe a lizard or a frog.

According to an old lady I know you should get a spider. And if that doesn't work you get a bird....


;)
 

Emma JC

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I know an old lady who swallowed a bird
How absurd to swallow a bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spiders
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spiders to catch the gnat
But I don't know why she swallowed the gnat that drove her bats

Emma JC
Find your vegan soulmate or just a friend. www.spiritualmatchmaking.com
 
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StrangeOtter

StrangeOtter

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House plants used to give me pleasant emotions as well, but now I see them as a by-product of greed and money. Everything that money touches, seems to get ruined.
I wonder if we could, for a while, forget about money and just let the plants be. Sometimes plants develop a way to protect themselves, such as they make themselves taste bad or become poisonous or produce an pheromone that attracts predatory insects. If they would become self-sustaining?
Maybe not. But I just wonder.
 
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Tom L.

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I've been thinking more about this.

The first step- avoiding the killing that professional greenhouses and plant suppliers do- can be avoided by swapping plant cuttings and offshoots with your friends and acquaintances (although this will limit your options. Still, my father had a tennis buddy who had a small greenhouse, and the two of us swapped a number of plants.) If you carefully quarantine new arrivals, you won't have to worry about any insects who can't fly.

I gathered quite a few fallen leaves from the sidewalk last Autumn. It was after the frost and I don't think insects lay their eggs in dry leaves. I'm going to try to make my own potting mix with them.

After that, I suppose you just try not to let insects in, and hope for the best.
 
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StrangeOtter

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I've been thinking more about this.

The first step- avoiding the killing that professional greenhouses and plant suppliers do- can be avoided by swapping plant cuttings and offshoots with your friends and acquaintances (although this will limit your options. Still, my father had a tennis buddy who had a small greenhouse, and the two of us swapped a number of plants.) If you carefully quarantine new arrivals, you won't have to worry about any insects who can't fly.

I gathered quite a few fallen leaves from the sidewalk last Autumn. It was after the frost and I don't think insects lay their eggs in dry leaves. I'm going to try to make my own potting mix with them.

After that, I suppose you just try not to let insects in, and hope for the best.
That's absolutely lovely.
You can also make bokashi. I have been thinking about doing that. And mix that with coconut fiber. Bokashi alone is too strong. Or just use dead leaves, if you have the option.

I have gotten one cutting. It's a spider plant, named Spidey. He is handsome. I think he'll make babies next year. :)
 

Tom L.

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@StrangeOtter Spider plants can be absolutely magnificent when they get lush. I can still remember one spider plant someone had: It was large- and hanging down from it, the plantlets which had grown out from it had their OWN plantlets hanging down from them, and I think there was maybe a fourth generation of plantlets below those! The whole effect was a living grass skirt. I've had them, and in my experience, they're quite vigorous growers- but I never came close to having one that splendid. I don't know if you have cats, but those long, thin, pointy leaves sometimes tempt them to nibble.

I didn't think spider plants were poisonous, and I still don't, but if I got a pet again I'd re-check everything I know about the plants I have. One plant I have is Clivia miniata, which I know is somewhat poisonous, but its rather tough, strap-shaped leaves never tempted anybody.

None of my pets ever died from my plants. However, one supposedly-indestructible plant I grew from a cutting (Sanseveria) died when one of my cats thought it made a great scratching post.
 
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if you take seeds from wild plants that weren't sprayed in nature and grow them from that - you can very well likely avoid harming insects.
 
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StrangeOtter

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if you take seeds from wild plants that weren't sprayed in nature and grow them from that - you can very well likely avoid harming insects.
I almost never buy plants. But thank you for brining this up. Lets spread the word. :)
All of my plants except for my Saint Paulia I have gotten as a gift. I also have gotten seeds from people and after sowing and growing those seeds, I'll collect the seeds from the plants and will eventually get my own cultivars.

I also collect seeds from plants at the store. Just recently I got seeds from a cherry tomato that would otherwise have gone to waste because it had some mold in it. I put the tomato in a class cup with water and mixed them together. Then I added a lid loosely on top and let it ferment couple of days in a sunny place, mixing it when I remembered to do so. On the surfice appeared a fungi which was absolutely disgusting. When the mixture started to bubble after mixing it was ready and I collected and dried the seeds. You know they are dry enough when they turn grey. I did all of this because as you know there is this slime covering the tomato seed which makes sprouting process slower and more prone to fail.
Seeds from patented F1 cultivars don't grow to be edible though so growing seeds from the plants that you get from store doesn't always work.

I'm also very interested in collecting seeds from wild plants and will try that out. Especially stinging nettles. it would be awesome to be able to harvest my own nettles each time I feel like having some delicious nettle soup. ☺️
 
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Tom L.

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if you take seeds from wild plants that weren't sprayed in nature and grow them from that - you can very well likely avoid harming insects.
Another possibility is to take cuttings from plants- but sometimes a plant that normally grows outdoors doesn't do well inside: it might need a dormant/cold period, or the indoor temperature isn't right, or it doesn't get enough light. I have chives and two species of mint (peppermint and ground ivy) in my yard. The chives are blooming, and I'll soon collect the seeds to plant in pots. I don't know how the peppermint will do. I've grown ground ivy in a small terrarium before and it survived, although it really didn't do well; I eventually planted it back outside again when the weather warmed up.
 
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Yeah, I just collected some dandelion seeds and am wondering if those need to be kept in a cool place over winter before sowing them. Welp, I'll try and if it fails, it fails. But if it succeeds, damn, I'll get vegan honey from my own dandelions next year. :heart_eyes:
 
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Tom L.

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@StrangeOtter Offhand, I don't know of any guides for growing plants which normally grow in *temperate climates indoors. As I mentioned just above, I've had mixed results trying this. (At least the peppermint cuttings I mentioned above have struck root-it didn't take long at all! I was pleased but not really surprised, considering how vigorously most mints grow in my experience).

I think you can make wine from dandelions (the flowers, I think, though I haven't investigated that). I've only eaten the leaves (and one or two of the raw, fresh flowers- which tasted OK, but I think are really more pleasing to the eye than to the palate).

*- In theory, my Upper New York State environs are supposed to be "temperate"- but I'd be inclined to disagree when I remember some of our winters and summers. I prefer being too hot and sweaty to being too cold, but we seem to have some sort of switch that makes us go from one to the other without much of anything in-between.

(New lyrics for the song "Autumn In New York"

Autumn in New Yoorrrkk
Seems to be dis-ap-pearrrr-innngggggg..."
 
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StrangeOtter

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@StrangeOtter Offhand, I don't know of any guides for growing plants which normally grow in *temperate climates indoors. As I mentioned just above, I've had mixed results trying this. (At least the peppermint cuttings I mentioned above have struck root-it didn't take long at all! I was pleased but not really surprised, considering how vigorously most mints grow in my experience).

I think you can make wine from dandelions (the flowers, I think, though I haven't investigated that). I've only eaten the leaves (and one or two of the raw, fresh flowers- which tasted OK, but I think are really more pleasing to the eye than to the palate).

*- In theory, my Upper New York State environs are supposed to be "temperate"- but I'd be inclined to disagree when I remember some of our winters and summers. I prefer being too hot and sweaty to being too cold, but we seem to have some sort of switch that makes us go from one to the other without much of anything in-between.

(New lyrics for the song "Autumn In New York"

Autumn in New Yoorrrkk
Seems to be dis-ap-pearrrr-innngggggg..."
Yeah, dandelions are awesome. You can make "coffee" from the roots, salad from the leaves and vegan "honey" from the flowers. I guess that you could also make wine from them -like you mentioned. I freaking love dandelions. :)

Climate change is making everything weird.
This summer has been freezing cold. I was camping for two weeks and woke up every morning at 3-4 am trembling from cold.
Then, when it got a bit warmer during the day, took a nap.

But now the temperature has taken a new turn. It's so hot you could probably make an steaming tofu scramble on a rock or something. I also like hot better! Sitting under a tree thinking, writing and drawing is the best. :)
 
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KLS52

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I can remember, as a kid, foraging for dandelions with my mom. She would think nothing of pulling over to the side of the road to pick them for salad. I’m talking the green leaves, not the flowers, though.
She foraged for mushrooms in the woods, too. Somehow she knew what she was doing as no one ever got sick/died. Lol. I would never try that myself today. I didn’t seem to inherit her knack.
 
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silva

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I've never lived anywhere where dandelions weren't growing one the lawns that didn't use herbicide. Surprised to hear anyone would plant seeds :shrug:
My neighbor on my left gets her lawn sprayed for weeds and that half of my lawn is always weed free and deep green. The right half has dandelions and those spikey weeds, and doesn't look so good :laughing:
Shame I have to worry about chemicals. There's another low growing plant that always seems to grow in driveway cracks that's supposed to be good--I think sorrel?